Brea Beal had hundreds of WNBA and NBA players to choose from when she was asked who she models her game after, but the South Carolina freshman stayed close to home. At least her new home.
“I definitely love A’ja Wilson,” Beal said.
A 6-footer choosing a 6-4 forward may have been a surprise, but the choice was about more than just hoops.
“[With A’ja], it’s always about on and off the court,” Beal said. “She’s a great advocate for women’s basketball and speaking up for [people’s] rights.”
The dynamic wing hopes to have just as much touch on the South Carolina program as the Gamecock legend who’s now starring the WNBA.
The No. 3 wing in the 2019 class and No. 11 player overall, Beal twice earned Ms. Basketball Illinois honors and was a three-time all-state selection. She’s also a member of USA Basketball and played in both the McDonald’s All-American Game and Jordan Brand Classic.
“Brea is the ultimate competitor,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said in a release when Beal signed. “She will impact the game in a variety of ways. She can stretch the floor with her 3-point shot, attack the basket with her size and strength and has a mid-range game to complement them.
“Her parents and her hometown have shaped her character, allowing her to be a great builder of our culture. Gamecock Nation will love her size at the wing and her no quit mentality.”
Beal met with reporters on Tuesday and gave a glimpse into her polite, confident personality. She greeted awaiting cameras with a smile and reporters with a “nice to meet you.” She jokingly complained — or was it a joke? — about the humid Columbia summer.
On her game, Beal’s confidence shined through. She considers herself more of a guard and a perimeter-oriented player, but with her size said she’s able to play on the wing or post up a forward if the team needs her to.
“With me you never know what you’ll see,” Beal said. “A lot of things, like I’ll be amazed myself. Just a very strong player. Whatever you ask of me, I’ll give.
“I love being versatile. I don’t like being held to one thing and one thing only.”
She added later, “You don’t just hold yourself to one expectation. If you’re able to do [something], then go ahead and do that. Because you’re not just helping yourself, you’re helping the whole entire team.”
“Brea can put people in the post and let them know [who’s boss],” said fellow Gamecock freshman and McDonald’s All-American Game teammate Aliyah Boston, a 6-4 forward and the top post player in the entire 2019 class. “She can also shoot it. And she can dribble if she really wanted to, which she does.”
Despite being a star player in high school, Beal has tamed expectations.
“You don’t expect to just come out and start like you did your entire career,” she said, adding that she’ll be the player who cheers her teammates on from the bench and picks players up when they’re struggling.
She also wants to help people “outside of basketball.” She’ll be there for dinners and “Uno!” games, just as she has with some of her teammates these past few weeks.
After she thanked her parents for guiding her life and career, Beal said it was the “family atmosphere” that brought her from Rock Island, Illinois to South Carolina.
“Talking to coach Staley, she keeps it so real,” Beal said. “She’s going to tell you how it is. She’s not really going to sugarcoat anything. With the players and the community, at the same time, it’s just an amazing place.”
Beal has met Wilson a couple of times and the latter has offered several points of advice, including just how tough her freshman year will be and how to get through it.
Maybe one day, when the next star South Carolina recruit gets asked who she aspires to be, she won’t say Wilson. Or Staley, as Gamecock freshman Zia Cooke did on Tuesday.
She’ll look reporters in the eye with a smile and say, “Brea Beal.”